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Charley Casserly: Retiring Andre Johnson, ‘as good as Jerry Rice ... in all areas, including work ethic.’

Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson retired on Monday. His former general manager had high praise.

The NFL saw another great player retire on Monday. Andre Johnson has decided to call it a career midway through his brief run with the Tennessee Titans. Johnson owns most of the receiving records in Houston Texans franchise history, and will go down as one of the great wide receivers in NFL history. He ends his career with 1,062 receptions (No. 9 all-time), 14,185 yards (No. 10), and 70 touchdowns (No. 40).

Charley Casserly was general manager of the Texans when the team selected Johnson third overall in the 2003 NFL Draft. On Monday, following news of Johnson’s retirement, Casserly had high praise on NFL Network for Johnson’s talent. He compared him to Jerry Rice, and suggested the primary difference between the two was the teams they played on:

“Jerry Rice is acknowledged as the best receiver in football. I’ll say this, Andre had as much talent as Jerry Rice, he just didn’t play for the 49ers with a Super Bowl team and Hall of Fame quarterbacks in their prime. He’s as good as Jerry Rice, IMO, in all areas, including work ethic.”

Casserly had this to say about Johnson’s talent and work ethic:

“Andre was the biggest, fastest, most talented wide receiver that I ever scouted. When we worked him out at the University of Miami, on grass he ran 4.35. And he played fast on the top. He was obviously well over six foot, 6’2, 6’3, 225, 230 pounds. To get a guy that big that fast that’s a great player? Now that’s a rare situation. And on top of it, his work ethic was off the charts.”

I have no problem with people saying “wide receiver X” had as much talent as Rice. There was no doubting Rice’s talent, but his insane drive and competitiveness seemingly were what turned him from a great receiver into the greatest receiver of all time. I think there are plenty of receivers who were more physically gifted, but none could compare to Rice’s combination of competitiveness and drive, as well as his ability to stay healthy late in his career.

I don’t think Casserly was trying to slight Rice, but I also think Casserly is under-valuing the fact that Rice was able to carry his greatness to when he was 40. In 2002, a 40-year old Rice caught 92 receptions for 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns. That team went to the Super Bowl and had strong seasons from Tim Brown (81 receptions, 930 yards, 2 TDs) and Jerry Porter (51 receptions, 688 yards, 9 TDs), so it’s not like he was getting garbage numbers with a bad team.

I certainly do not take away from Andre Johnson’s fantastic career, but any chance I have to give the G.O.A.T. a boost, I’ll take it! Nonetheless, congrats to Andre Johnson on a fantastic career, and if nothing else, we’ll always have this glorious moment: